"A Clear Future for our River"

Harriet Alvis

BART takes to the water at the Bristol Harbour Festival

Did you spot the BART logo in the Bristol Post, Telegraph or Sunday Times this weekend?

BART Project Manager Harriet took to the water in a cardboard boat this weekend for the ‘My Future My Choice‘ cardboard boat race at the Bristol Harbour Festival.

Her boat, HMS Fatberg, was created to raise awareness of the issues with fats and wastes being poured down our drains. You can read more about this issue here.

No win (more of a big sink!) but great to see the BART logo in the news!

Fish passage assessments at Radstock

Yesterday BART spent the day on the Wellow Brook assessing fish passage on three weirs in Radstock. We measured the physical characteristics of the weirs including water depths, height and length of structure and also flow velocities and inserted these into a database which calculates the passability of the structures for a number of different species. Unfortunately, the database confirmed that all three barriers presented a barrier to a range of fish species and therefore we will be investigating weir removal possibilities or fish passage options for these in the future.

This work is part of our wider Wellow and Cam Initiative which we have been working on for a number of years but which has picked up a lot of pace recently. The initiative includes: weir removals and fish passage surveys, coppicing, instream work, river corridor surveys, macroinvertebrate surveys, electrofishing surveys, land management advice , education and much more.

This piece of work was funded by Tesco Bags of Help – thanks to everyone who voted for us with your tokens in store!

 

Free GIS training opportunity for secondary schools

Calling all Secondary school teachers in the Bristol area!

Bristol Avon Rivers Trust are offering an exciting opportunity to become a member of a steering and development group for our new GIS Geography education project. Since the introduction of GIS to the curriculum, a lack of CPD opportunities for teachers to learn how to use it has become a barrier to its use in the classroom. BART will be developing this GIS project to provide an outstanding, locally focused and cross specification teaching package aimed at KS3-5 pupils and teachers.

GIS is an essential tool to many industries including urban planning, government, business and marketing. Its importance in everyday life is growing as human pressures on the environment increase with growing populations. As outdoor education and engagement with the natural environment is reduced with health and safety restrictions, GIS represents a crucial way for teachers to educate young people on the water cycle and land and river management, and we are in an exciting and privileged position to develop this opportunity.

We will be developing this GIS package through a teacher liaison panel to co-design the programmes of study. Contributing teachers can expect to benefit from this unrivalled CPD opportunity by becoming fully trained in using GIS and delivery of the programmes of study. This will enable you to return to your school as a GIS teacher specialist, allowing you to lead the delivery of GIS training and teaching in your own school. This is a free opportunity and travel expenses will be covered.

The project aims to teach competent transferable GIS skills whilst developing pupils understanding of some of the many locally important physical and human geographical features in the Avon catchment. Contributing teachers will need to be able to commit to attending a 3 after-school training sessions in Bristol.

If you are interested in being involved in the liaison panel, please get in touch at alec@bristolavonriverstrust.org

Kind regards,

Alec Richardson

Education & Community Engagement Officer

Eel in the Classroom 2018

Now we’ve had time to sit back and reflect on another year of our Eel in the Classroom project, we would like to share with you our progress in 2018.

We are really pleased to say that our project has been hugely successful to date and as a result it is growing every year. This year, we were able to run the project with a huge 12 schools – no easy feat for a small charity, with tank sourcing and set ups, eel deliveries, weekly check-ups, visits for technical issues, tank cleaning, extra lessons and release events!

We were also really pleased to deliver the project with both secondary schools and a special needs school for the first time, which shows how valuable this project is to any age range. We’ve now had wonderful feedback from 4-16 years old!

This year’s schools were in the following places:

  • Portishead, Somerset
  • Congresbury, Somerset
  • Keynsham, Somerset
  • Bath, Somerset
  • Hartcliffe, Bristol
  • Easton, Bristol
  • Eastville, Bristol
  • Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire
  • Calne, Wiltshire
  • Lacock, Wiltshire
  • Pucklechurch, South Gloucestershire

We are so grateful to our funders, the Greggs Foundation, who funded 9 schools, and Avon Frome Partnership who funded a further 3 and finally to Bristol Water who provided our eels and some tank equipment.

The eels were donated by UK Glass Eels after being caught by elver fisherman on the River Severn, after which approximately 50 eels were given to each primary school. After 5 weeks of feeding the eels every day, learning about their life history, and in some cases even naming the eels, it was time to release them back into rivers to begin the next stage of their lives. The eels can spend up to around 60 years in the headwaters of rivers, in small tributaries, ditches and streams before they make the epic 5000km migration back to where they were born in the Sargasso Sea to spawn.

BART also ran a series of extra lessons throughout the project including river dipping (getting the children in their river, often for the first time), water pollution and food webs.

All of the schools released their eels into their local river and received certificates and trophies to thank them for looking after their elvers so well. We’ve been promised that they will go back and look for their eels whenever they can!

We are already looking for funding to deliver this project in 2019. Please get in touch if you are a business or individual who would like to sponsor a tank in a school near you!

Similarly, if your school is interested in getting involved in this project next year then please get in touch with harriet@bristolavonriverstrust.org to be added to the waiting list.

‘Backroom BART’ update, BART CEO

By Ian Mock, BART CEO…

The above picture is a bit like Backroom BART at present. It is a time of year when Accounts and looming AGM’s cause you to have to take stock of what happened last year whilst also ensuring the foundations are laid for the next. It is also the tie of year when being ‘backroom’ is certainly not what you want to be.

Looking back for AGM purposes means signing off Accounts and reviewing the year through the lens of external stakeholders. Have we survived financially and have we delivered against targets set. Well, yes – we did in the end have a very strong year and I am hoping our accountant will agree with me. We also delivered on all our projects despite the awful Winter. There was a time when we worried that this might not happen but that seems to be the way of small charities and small businesses.

We also managed some ‘firsts’ during the year. Sadly, one was having to let an employee go. Apparently something that is not unusual in our sector where funding is not secure but very hard to do all the same. We also received our first commitment to a regular monthly donation. The fact that someone appreciates what we are trying to do to that extent is wonderful. We also received several donations for offering simple help and advice which again is extremely gratifying and a tribute to our team, including a kind £1000 donation from a community group. BART does not expect donations to be a great contributor to funds and to end the year with a donation from one community group we have supported came as a huge boost to morale.

Looking back and logging the events and people we have met and who have helped us, BART really would like to thanks supporters and funders alike for what turned out to be a near record year in the end.

A final look backwards:

BART Trustees again reviewed the work we carry out with the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and agreed we should continue to put effort into supporting the partnership in the year to come. Our ability to take part in more complex joint enterprises is vastly increased by our membership of the partnership and we look forward to helping shape future work whenever we can. We are so convinced that Partnership working is the way forward that BART have agreed to become Joint hosts of the Partnership this year.

Repeat business is the aim for most successful businesses. Working on a large estate to help create an inventory of actions to improve water quality and habitat led to a report – like many projects do. A wash up meeting attended by a nervous BART duo resulted in a commitment to £50k of improvements being implemented in the coming year. A delighted BART duo left the meeting looking forwards.

Looking forwards:

We have some incredibly exciting opportunities which we will share through the newsletter as they unfold. We will be

  • Restoring habitat on at least four locations
  • Removing some more boulder weirs and improving trout spawning areas
  • Continuing our eel in the classroom work
  • Working with teachers to improve GIS skills (and river catchment knowledge) in schools
  • Interviewing four new Trustees
  • Carrying out three Natural Flood Management projects
  • Undertaking some exciting eel monitoring
  • Delivering multiple fish passage feasibility studies

And that’s what we have planned so far, we are sure many new opportunities will arise.  Backroom BART is not a chicken counter but we have made a strong start to the year already.

Finally, most importantly at this time of year, Backroom BART has been walking the rivers – been wading chest deep in some and peering over bridges with team members, landowners and some very knowledgeable anglers. Sharing a love of rivers with others is infinitely more enjoyable than just being a solo carer. Showing my team barbel hovering below spawning beds in beautiful clear Spring sunshine and clear water a few weeks ago and hearing their excitement is perhaps my favourite event of the year so far. These beautiful fish literally held station in the strong flow with tiny fin movements whilst smaller fish were swept across the current dramatically. A stunning sight. Add this to multiple hare and dipper sightings and it has been a marvellous few weeks.

I hope you all get some time on our lovely rivers and streams this Spring and Summer – it really is important that BART and many others continue to work hard to look after them.

Thank you,

Ian Mock

BART CEO